A Christmas Tradition: A Teddy Bear Finds Christmas

Every year since I was little we put up a special calendar on the first of December. It was a calendar my grandmother made.

It is the story of a little bear who couldn’t wait for Christmas so he decided to look for it. Each day in December he looks in a different spot, indicated in the calendar at the bottom. My grandmother sewed a button on every spot where the bear looks.

This little bear is pretty thorough in his search!

Anyway, today is Christmas Eve and–SPOILER ALERT!–he finally found Christmas: in the living room with all of his family.

This year my son was very diligent about moving the bear to his particular spot on the calendar each day. And it was heartwarming to hear him read the little calendar at the bottom all by himself.

As I sit and look at the calendar with a belly full of special chocolate-chip-banana-pancakes-for-breakfast, I sigh as I think that we (and the bear) made it to another Christmas Eve. All the rush and the planning and now it is simply beautiful anticipation in the air.

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a beary good night.



It’s painful to have to walk a dog around 5:45 a.m., especially in winter.

But in some ways it’s rather peaceful.

If it’s not cloudy then you can see the stars. There’s hardly any cars on the roads. There’s a bunny here and there.

And all you can hear are our footsteps. The world feels fast asleep.

Lately it’s been rather playful on our walks, too. I’ve brought along a cloth frisbee or a Kong toy on the end of a rope and tossed it for Spirit, our almost-one-year-old border collie/lab mix, in a schoolyard nearby. Spirit is a natural at fetch. There’s something about seeing her race after the toy, grabbing it, and proudly prancing back to you, that warms the heart. Especially when she does a little victory lap before dropping the toy at your feet.

It’s also endearing to see the accumulating frost around her snout and on her whiskers, the longer we play in the cold.

By the time we need to head on home, the chickadees have woken up and are chirping their hellos. The sky has turned an almost sepia tone.

And Spirit is still prancing. And I have a bit of a spring in my step, too.

Simple pleasures: a dog, a toy, and a field.

Spirit with her chin on her favourite blanket.

Hi! I’m Monica.

Hello! My name is Monica. I’m Dana’s office plant.

I’m rather special if I do say so myself. Why? Because Dana hasn’t killed me yet!

(Although she did leave for vacation for a week and no one watered me and so I was rather droopy when she returned… But I prevailed! I hope we never, ever have a close call like that again. Right, Dana?!)

Apparently Dana has a pretty bad track record when it comes to houseplants. Last I heard she killed about 14 or something like that. She seems rather nice and treats me well (okay, except for the week vacation). So what does she do wrong?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m an office plant. And/or that I’m an ivy. We ivies (ivys?) are a pretty hearty bunch. Case in point: the week vacation. (Oops, I brought that up again.)

I even keep growing more leaves! I’ve been on Dana’s desk for over three months now and my vine has grown extensively.

I have it pretty good here. I have a nice view of the street with the occasional exciting firetruck that goes whizzing by. Dana is quiet and drinks lots of coffee and tea. (Some of her teas smell really good!) She mostly types and reads. It’s a quiet life and I like it.

But maybe one day she’ll bring me a friend?

Barcelona: Beauties and Oddities

Right now I am whipping through the Spanish countryside on a train that’s going 200km/h. We’re on our way to Valencia after spending a couple of days in Barcelona.

To me, Barcelona is a lovely mix of beauty and oddity. Four of its beauties, in no particular order:

1. The Sagrada Família. We walked there, turned a corner, and BAM! There it was. I literally gasped. 

Pictures don’t do it proper justice. The mish-mash of serious churchiness and cartoony whimsy is my kind of art. I never thought I would be so mesmerized by a church. Unfortunately we were only able to see the outside as tickets were sold out. No surprise there.

2. Park Güell. Fantastic walking trails with a Gaudi masterpiece nestled here and there. The stuff of fairy tales. I’m really digging Gaudi!

3. Tapas!!

4. Sandcastles on the beach—with FIRE!

Then there are the occasional oddities. Here are five and again, in no particular order:

1. A yaht complete with shrink-wrapped helicopter.

2. A man walking downtown carrying an ocillating fan.

3. A young woman walking downtown carrying a toaster.

4. A beepy-boopy electronic tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” coming from seemingly nowhere. Is it someone’s ringtone? No. Is it a car alarm? No. We finally see a tipped-over Christmas ornament on the sidewalk: A foot-long, cheap plastic Santa with a creepy smile on his face. Nothing and no one around it. (I was laughing too hard to take a picture.)

5. Rotisserie chickens spinning humorously and amazingly fast on a spit in a shop window. Maybe it’s a special cooking trick.

The train has arrived in Valencia! What beauties and oddities await us here?

Saturday mornings need lop-sided pigtails

The bedroom door is flung open with a burst of hallway light blasting my eyes.

“Momma, can you get up now?”

I squint at the clock. 6:09 a.m. On a Saturday.

My sleepy brain groans. My body feels like a bag of bricks. “Wait until the clock says seven-zero-zero,” I mumble.

“Okay!” And she slams the door.

What feels like thirty seconds pass when the door is flung open again. “Momma,” she calls in a loud-ish, raspy whisper, “It’s time to get up!” 

Before I launch into a restrained adult-tantrum about the necessity of older people sleeping in on weekends, I open my eyes and see her standing there, with three lop-sided pigtails in her hair and dressed in her ballet outfit. I can’t help but smirk. In her own way she knows how to celebrate a Saturday.

My daughter’s self-styled hair and outfit choice…

It is now 8:27 and we’ve ploughed through a plate of pancakes, a page in a colouring book, two episodes of Paw Patrol, a mini-dance party, and a funny-face competition. 

Suddenly it is eerily quiet. I peek into the living room.

The child is asleep on the couch…

Darth Vader’s Guide to Bumblebees

Greetings, to whoever is reading this record of my discovery of this planet called…Earth

I am the almighty Darth Vader, and I have been seeking to destroy the Jedi across the universe. I have been in search of Jedi on this planet Earth and I believe I have finally found them.

They are very small, these Jedi. And covered in fur, like Ewoks or Wookies. (I hate Ewoks and Wookies…) 

They fly, these small Jedi. And make a BZZZzzzZZZzzz sound. Quite annoying, actually. (But then again, all Jedi are annoying…)

The Force is strong with them. Their navigational skills are impressive. And they wield a weapon that strikes like a compact Lightsaber, searing and burning the skin upon impact. 

Like any cowardly Jedi they only strike on the defensive, never on the offensive. Although they are quite stealthy: one of these small Jedi flew up inside one of my Stormtrooper’s uniforms. He died a painful, arm-flailing death.

My scientists tell me these small Jedi have a weakness for colours and fragrances. Rather odd. But then again I have a weakness for JiffyPop, so who am I to judge?

In the meantime, while on Earth, I guess I will stay out of my Hawaiian shirts and lay off the Chanel No. 5.

Starting from scratch

We had some landscaping done in our backyard recently that resulted in brand new gardening opportunities.

A completely blank canvas! Oh, the possibilities. For helping…bees! (And other pollinators too, of course.)

I did a little happy dance then headed straight to the nearest gardening centre.

Did I have a clue as to what to get? Um, nope! Well, whatever was on sale and looked bee-worthy.

The garden centre actually had little pre-made baskets from The Canadian Wildlife Federation with flowers that attract specific pollinators: bees, butterflies, hummingbirds… I bought one for bees (and I think I’ll go back to get the others).

With a big bag of dirt and a cart chocked full of baby plants, I hurried home to tuck them into their new home before the sun set.

Here are some of my new babies. Like a new mom, I’m not sure what I’m doing but I’ll do my best and hope that they thrive! (My grandmother was a stellar gardener and I’m hoping to channel some of her super-powers.)

Basil! One of my favourite herbs. I admit it’s more for me than the bees.

Russian sage. Never heard of it before…

Never heard of cat mint before, either. But all those little purple blooms are certainly bee-friendly.

More purple bee flowers! Although this one came from the 99 cent shelf and I have no idea what they are…

I don’t know what these flowers are, either, but I always thought they look pretty.

Four bits of magic

Cottages always hold such potential for little bits of magic. We went up to our cottage last weekend, kept our eyes open, and we were not disappointed.

1. If we leave peanuts out for the chipmunks, will they find them? The answer: yes! Well, at least something took them. We didn’t hang around to see who or what, since the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Lexi on her way to see if the peanuts had been taken.

2. Sitting in the sun, minding my own business, when this big blue friend stops for a visit. We hung out for quite a while. I wonder what it was about my knee that was so attractive? Regardless, it was a treat to marvel at this big beauty up close.

A big, friendly dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever had one land on me before.

3. What I think is a damselfly landed on my foot after I had gone for a swim. I transferred it to my hand and it stayed to visit for a while. It even let me put it on my son’s hand, too, before it decided to fly away.

I think this is some kind of damselfly… Whatever it is, it liked our hands!
Our (blurry) damselfly friend on my son’s finger.

4. “Mommy, can you find me some sea shells?” I searched and searched and found these snail shells in the water next to shore. I think my daughter kept them clutched in her fist for the rest of our trip.

Three “sea shells.” The long nails on my daughter’s hand are actually fake Canada Day-themed nails.

I wonder what bits of magic await us for the next time?

Who knew I could throw an axe?

A friend of mine works as an event planner and she was asked by her supervisor to create a “bucket list”: a list of things you hope to experience before you, um, kick the bucket. The list has to be 100 items long. Since she was given this challenge my friend has also been trying to check off as many items on her list as possible (being an event planner, this helps). One item on her list is axe throwing. Last night we aimed to check it off.

The venue we went to was the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL). My husband and I were invited along with three other couples. I have to admit I was quite hestitant. Most of the time I feel like I have the upper body strength of a cooked noodle. Throwing an axe? I’ll either lodge it into my foot or kill/maim somebody! I signed the waiver as I prayed to a higher power.

Thank goodness we had an instructor with us the whole time and we were given a good warm-up period. And most importantly, the axe was small.

My first throws were hilarious. My axe bounced off the wall, missed the target completely, you name it. (But it did not impale anyone. YAY!) But then a little magic happened as my brain and eyes and arms and everything synchronized…and I hit the target! Then came the million dollar question: how do I do that again?! With a few more practice throws I actually started to show some consistency. And I actually…liked it.

After the warm-up period there was a round-robin tournament: pairs of players competed to see who could get the most points after 15 throws. A few times I was paired up with one of the guys, who were all were much bigger than me and all rather sporty.

But guess what? I came in third place!

Then came the second tournament where players were eliminated until the winner remained. Amazingly I eliminated one player, then another player…and before I knew it, I was battling for first place! Against my husband!

My husband won. He’s good at practically everything. But I came in second place! Who would have guessed? (Thank you, axe-throwing gods!)

 I took a brochure with information about their league. Who knows? I might just sign up.

And I might take a stab at creating my own bucket list.

Exhaustion (yawn…)

It is 7:17 pm and I feel like I could crawl into bed.

My husband took the kids and the puppy to a park to burn off some of their interminable energy. I know my husband is likely just as tired as I am so I am eternally grateful.

There is the dull ache of fatigue at the back of my head and strain around my eyes. It hurts to think. Yet I feel restless.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done. Two kids under seven and a puppy. What was I thinking? Am I insane? These days I go to work to relax.

To summarize some of my day:

Let puppy out for a pee / Supervise three-year-old as she goes for a pee / Make lunches / Make breakfast / Eat breakfast / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Let puppy out for a pee / Clean up kitchen / Shower / Let puppy out for a pee / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up dog poop on floor (Dammit! When did that happen?!) / Brush children’s teeth / Referee emotional warfare between three-year-old and six-year-old / Clean up more dog poop on floor (Seriously?!?!) / Engage in high-level negotiations for three-year-old to get dressed / Coax puppy into crate / Haul backpacks, hats, children, into car…

And that was before 8:15 am.

I know many people will say these are “special times.” Yeah, they are special because I feel I can hardly breathe. Sometimes I think the kids and the dog have so much energy because they suck it away from their parents…